The Senator has fought to go mainstream with the ideology that he shares with his father. How far can that strategy take him?
BY RYAN LIZZA
At 8 A.M. on a Friday in late July, Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, stood before a predominantly African-American audience of about a hundred at an Urban League conference in Cincinnati. An ophthalmologist before he was a senator, Paul has spent much of his career in surgical scrubs, but he was dressed nattily, in a charcoal suit and a red rep tie. His typically unkempt curls, which give him the look of a philosophy student lost in thought, were restrained with the help of a hair product. His aides had been promoting the talk for weeks, as part of a yearlong effort to reintroduce himself to political constituencies—on both the left and the right—that may have reason to distrust him. In the next few months, he is planning to deliver a major speech on foreign policy; like race, it is an area in which Paul has encountered strident opposition.
In some respects, Paul is to Republicans in 2014 what Barack Obama was to Democrats in 2006: the Party’s most prized fund-raiser and its most discussed senator, willing to express opinions unpopular within his party, and capable of energizing younger voters. The Republican National Committee, which in 2008 refused to allow his father, Ron Paul, to speak at its Convention, recently solicited donations by offering supporters a chance to have lunch with Rand Paul. The only potential obstacle to a Paul Presidential candidacy in 2016 is his wife, Kelley. Douglas Stafford, Paul’s top political adviser, said, “Unless Kelley says no, he’s running.” Steve Munisteri, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, told me this summer, “He is objectively one of the three most likely people to get the nomination.”